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Uncertainty in audiometer calibration

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METROLOGIA PII: S0026-1394(04)69676-9

Uncertainty in audiometer calibration

Marcos Aur elio Pedroso, Samir N Y Gerges and Armando A Gon calves Jr
Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), Mechanical Engineering Department (EMC), Campus Universit ario Trindade, Mail box: 476, 88040-900-Florian opolis, SC, Brazil E-mail: aurelio and

Received 17 February 2003 Published 10 December 2003 Online at (DOI: 10.1088/0026-1394/41/1/001) Abstract The objective of this work is to present a metrology study necessary for the accreditation of audiometer calibration procedures at the National Brazilian Institute of Metrology Standardization and Industrial QualityINMETRO. A model for the calculation of measurement uncertainty was developed. Metrological aspects relating to audiometer calibration, traceability and measurement uncertainty were quantied through comparison between results obtained at the Industrial Noise LaboratoryLARI of the Federal University of Santa CatarinaUFSC and the Laboratory of Electric/acousticsLAETA of INMETRO. Similar metrological performance of the measurement system used in both laboratories was obtained, indicating that the interlaboratory results are compatible with the expected values. The uncertainty calculation was based on the documents: EA-4/02 Expression of the Uncertainty of Measurement in Calibration (European Co-operation for Accreditation 1999 EA-4/02 p 79) and Guide to the Expression of Uncertainty in Measurement (International Organization for Standardization 1993 1st edn, corrected and reprinted in 1995, Geneva, Switzerland). Some sources of uncertainty were calculated theoretically (uncertainty type B) and other sources were measured experimentally (uncertainty type A). The global value of uncertainty calculated for the sound pressure levels (SPLs) is similar to that given by other calibration institutions. The results of uncertainty related to measurements of SPL were compared with the maximum uncertainties Umax given in the standard IEC 60645-1: 2001 (International Electrotechnical Commission 2001 IEC 60645-1 ElectroacousticsAudiological EquipmentPart 1: Pure-Tone Audiometers).

1. Introduction
There are several laboratories that offer the service of calibrating audiologic equipment. However, in Brazil, there are still no laboratories with accreditation related to audiometer calibration. To obtain accreditation each laboratory must develop a quality manual and calibration procedure. Also, it is necessary to state the value of the measurement uncertainty on the calibration report or certicate, and to show the method used to calculate the uncertainty. These are some of the requirements of the accreditation institutionAccreditation divisionDICLA/INMETRO [1]. Such requirements have presented great obstacles to obtaining accreditation.

The main physical parameters measured in audiometer calibration are: sound pressure levels (SPLs) in the earphones, the bone vibrator force level, the attenuator steps, the pure tone frequencies and harmonic distortion (THD). This study concentrated only on the measurement uncertainty of the SPLs. The main uncertainty sources that can inuence earphone SPL measurements were investigated. Supra-aural earphones were used in the experimental tests. To calculate the global uncertainty it is important to estimate each uncertainty source value and then combine all the values, in the uncertainty budget, to obtain a global value. This calculation was developed in accordance with the principles established in the documents Guide to the Expression of
Printed in the UK

2004 BIPM and IOP Publishing Ltd

M A Pedroso et al

Uncertainty in Measurement [2] and EA-4/02 Expression of the Uncertainty of Measurement in Calibration [3]. The global value obtained in the calculation of uncertainty will be stated in the certicate issued by the calibrating laboratory. The global value result for the theoretical calculation of the measurement uncertainty related to audiometer calibration was within the expected range. This result is in very good agreement with the results presented by the Eletroacoustical Laboratory (LAETA/INMETRO, Brazil) [1] and the National Metrology Institute of Turkey [4]. The range of these uncertainty values was 0.3 dB to 0.6 dB. The IEC 60645-1 Standard (2001 edition) [5] gives values of the maximum uncertainty allowed Umax related to parameters measured in audiometers; covering factor k = 2.0. The global value from the uncertainty budget was compared with values from the international standard IEC [5]. Laboratory audiometer calibration comparison was also carried out, using an Interacoustics audiometer model AD25. The values obtained from these tests were within the expected range, i.e. within the uncertainty range, and are therefore acceptable. The laboratory comparison was an efcient way to evaluate measurement traceability of the SPL measurement.

2. Materials and method

The equipment used for measurements was: an acoustic coupler (NBS 9A) of mass 450 g, a 1 inch (25.4 mm) measurement microphone (model 2575), a pre-amplier octave band lter sound level (model PRM 902), and a 1 3 meter (model 824). The equipment was supplied by Larson Davis Company. The calibration period of this equipment is approximately one year. It was calibrated at INMETRO according to international standards, at temperatures between 22.5 C and 22.8 C. An audiometer from Interacoustics, model AC 40, with supra-aural earphones model TDH 39 (Telephonics) was tested (see gure 1). This audiometer was used to generate pure tones in the 125 Hz to 8000 Hz frequency range. The temperature range during audiometer calibration was 23.0 C 3.0 C. Each one of the system components is subject to inuence from some physical parameters, such as the effect of temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure. Figure 2 illustrates the parameters that may inuence uncertainty. The greatest sources of uncertainty estimated were: expanded uncertainty (U95% ) related to sound calibrator (0.2 dB); inuence of ambient temperature variation on sound level meter (0.33 dB); uncertainty stated in the INMETRO calibration certicate of the microphone (0.2 dB); uncertainty stated in the INMETRO calibration certicate of the SLM (0.2 dB); linearity error of the microphone (0.2 dB). 2.1. Sound calibrator A sound calibrator from Larson Davis, model CA250, nominal value 114 dB, frequency 250 Hz, was used. The value of the expanded uncertainty of the sound calibrator stated in its certicate of calibration is 0.2 dB, in 2

Figure 1. Photo and diagram of an audiometer calibration system.

Sound calibrator
Inherent uncertainty Drift Atmospheric pressure Temperature Calibrator placement Air humidity Temperature Atmospheric pressure Drift Inherent uncertainty

Placement of the earphone on coupler

Temperature Linearity Electronic noise

Repeatibility Air humidity Temperature Electronic noise Linearity Resolution

Vibrations Power supply voltage Ambient noise

Inherent uncertainty

Measurement microphone



Figure 2. Diagram of the sources of uncertainty.

relation to the SPL generated by the calibrator. The features of the physical structure of the sound calibrator (metals and synthetic materials) change with the passing of time. Thus, the SPL generated by the sound calibrator may be subject to drift as a function of its age. Such a drift can be estimated through observation of several successive certicates of calibration for the sound calibrator. In this way the uncertainty ucal = 0.207 dB was computed, which included the drift over one year. The inuences of static atmospheric pressure and temperature on the sound calibrator may affect the uncertainty calculation. Thus, it is important to quantify these inuences through the parameter ucal pressure . The tting of the sound calibrator onto the measurement microphone during measurement system adjustment can cause differences in the SPL values. These deviations should be evaluated experimentally and included in the uncertainty calculation.
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Uncertainty in audiometer calibration

Table 1. First part of uncertainty budget. An Interacoustics audiometer model AC 40 (LARI) was used. Note that LE means left earphone and RE means right earphone. Raw value (dB) 0.414 0.100 0.020 0.050 0.006 0.300 0.020 0.200 0.005 0.200 0.100 0.087 0.333 Probability distribution Normal Rectangular Rectangular Rectangular Rectangular Normal Normal Normal Rectangular Rectangular Rectangular Rectangular Rectangular Normal Normal Normal Normal Normal Normal Normal Normal Normal Normal Normal Dividing factor 2.0 3 3 3 3 2.0 2.0 2.0 3 3 3 3 3 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 LE 0.033 0.033 0.033 0.033 0.000 0.033 0.033 0.000 0.000 0.145 0.058 Standard uncertainty (dB) 0.207 0.058 0.012 0.029 0.004 0.150 0.010 0.100 0.003 0.116 0.058 0.050 0.192 RE 0.000 0.067 0.033 0.033 0.000 0.033 0.000 0.033 0.000 0.058 0.067 Degrees of freedom () 50 Innite Innite Innite Innite 50 50 50 Innite Innite Innite Innite Innite 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2

Symbol ucal uadjust uR umic temp utemp ucal


Uncertainty sources Sound calibrator Calibration system adjustment SLM resolution Inuence of temperature variation on microphone Inuence of temperature variation on SLM Inuence of atmospheric pressure on sound calibrator Stated on microphone calibration certicate Pre-amplier calibration certicate SLM calibration certicate Microphone sensitivity drift Pre-amplier and SLM drift Microphone linearity error Linearity error of the pre-amplier and SLM Microphone polarization voltage Effect of relative air humidity on SLM Power supply Electronic and ambient noise Uncertainty type A125 Hz Uncertainty type A250 Hz Uncertainty type A500 Hz Uncertainty type A750 Hz Uncertainty type A1000 Hz Uncertainty type A1500 Hz Uncertainty type A2000 Hz Uncertainty type A3000 Hz Uncertainty type A4000 Hz Uncertainty type A6000 Hz Uncertainty type A8000 Hz

pressure mic


ucertif pre ucertif SLM udrift-mic ulin mic ulin pre SLM upol uhumid ups unoise uA 125 uA 250 uA 500 uA 750 uA 1000 uA 1500 uA 2000 uA 3000 uA 4000 uA 6000 uA 8000


In table 1, the uncertainty sources related to the sound calibrator and set-up adjustment are: ucal standard uncertainty of sound calibrator considering the inherent uncertainty (calibrator certicate), the inuence of temperature and relative air humidity, ucal pressure standard uncertainty due to the inuence of atmospheric pressure variation, uadjust standard uncertainty estimated as a function of the set-up adjustment. The set-up is adjusted by means of the calibrator.

2.3. Measurement microphone The conguration of the measurement microphone is LS1P according to IEC 60318-3 [11]. The metrological performance of the measurement microphone suffers from the inuences of environmental conditions. To calculate the overall uncertainty the following elements should be considered: the uncertainty stated in the microphone INMETRO calibration certicate, sensitivity drift, atmospheric pressure, temperature and air humidity. These uncertainty sources may modify the metrologic features of the measurement microphone. Electronic noise was not considered since the microphone functions as a capacitor. The drift of the microphone sensitivity can be estimated through its calibration certicates. By means of the manufacturers manuals it was possible to estimate the inuences of atmospheric pressure, temperature and air humidity on the microphone features. However, in this study, these features were quantied through information relating to another microphone manufacturer, B&K, type 4144, 4145 and 4160 [6]. It is important to take into consideration the whole audiometer frequency range, 125 Hz to 8000 Hz, so that the 3

2.2. Acoustic coupler An NBS 9A acoustic coupler was used, onto which supra-aural earphones were tted. The NBS 9A coupler was considered equivalent to the IEC 60318-3 model for calibration purposes. In this study, the uncertainties originating from the acoustic coupler and the 450 g weight were not estimated, although they contributed to the random experimental deviations obtained in the audiometer calibration tests.
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maximum value for each microphone uncertainty source can be quantied correctly. The following uncertainty sources were related to the measurement microphone, as given in table 1: ucertif mic standard uncertainty obtained through the expanded uncertainty (U95% ) stated in the microphone INMETRO calibration certicate, umic temp standard uncertainty related to the inuence of temperature variation on the microphone, udrift mic drift of the microphone sensitivity as a function of the time between two successive calibrations, ulin mic uncertainty related to linearity error of the microphone. The value of the maximum linearity error acceptable in 1 microphone design is given in the standard IEC/CD 61094-4 [7], and corresponds to 0.2 dB, upol standard uncertainty relating to variations in the polarization voltage of the measurement microphone. It was estimated as 1.0%, which corresponds to 0.087 dB. 2.4. Pre-amplier This device presents relatively low values of expanded uncertainty, for example, U95% = 0.02 dB. This value is generally stated in the INMETRO calibration certicate (see table 1, ucertif pre ). Despite their advanced features, pre-ampliers always have some imperfections, for example: linearity errors, electronic noise, temperature inuences. Such inuences were estimated through information given in B&K manuals [8]. However, these values were not considered in the calculations of the overall uncertainty; values were considered insignicant. Non-linearity inuences on the pre-amplier and SLM have been estimated from a graph presented by Larson Davis [9]. The range of 30 dB to 128 dB was considered (see gure 3). The graph shows the linearity error as a function of the SPL. The graph was obtained through electronic testing using a sinusoidal signal (frequency 1 kHz) applied to the preamplier (PRM902), which was connected to SLM model 824 of Larson Davis. Accepting the supposition that the probability distribution is rectangular [2] (see item 4.3.7 of the reference)

and considering the graph of gure 3, it yields the following uncertainty: ulin
pre SLM

0.1 = = 0.0577 dB 3

By changing the gain of the set-up it is possible to avoid part of the noise under 30 dB, but the measurement uncertainty under 30 dB may be higher than that calculated in this study. 2.5. Sound level meter The expanded uncertainty U95% of the SLM, type 1, model 824, was estimated as being in the order of 0.2 dB. This value is generally obtained through information given in the INMETRO calibration certicate. The uncertainty due to SLM resolution is already included in the uncertainty stated in the SLM INMETRO calibration certicate. Thus, the uncertainty arising from resolution was not included in the calculations. This avoids redundancy in the calculation of the overall uncertainty. Although the SLM equipment is of high quality (type 1) its metrologic features are still affected by temperature and relative air humidity variations. The variation ranges of these parameters were determined and the corresponding values of uncertainty were calculated. The following data were found in the manufacturers manuals [10]: maximum error of 0.5 dB between 10 C and 50 C (14 F to 122 F); maximum error of 0.5 dB in the 30% to 90% relative air humidity range, at 40 C. According to IEC 60318-3 [11], audiometer calibration should be performed at 23.0 C 3.0 C. In this study, a temperature variation range of 6.0 C was considered. Also according to IEC 60318-3, the relative air humidity during the calibration should be between 30% and 70%. Through these specications the variables utemp SLM and uhumid SLM were evaluated, as given in table 1. Pressure variation inuences related to SLM were discarded. 2.6. Power supply The audiometer calibration system has an electronic regulator that avoids undesirable internal voltage variations from the power mains. Therefore, during tests there were no signicant

Figure 3. Linearity with pre-amplier (PRM902) and SLM (824) connected together. Tested by Larson Davis Company. Tested with a pure tone, frequency 1000 Hz.

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Uncertainty in audiometer calibration

inuences on the metrologic features due to any power supply voltage variations. 2.7. Ambient noise Signicant inuences exclusively due to ambient noise were not observed when the tests were performed at 30 dB hearing level (HL) or at higher levels. The experiments were performed in a small acoustic chamber to reduce ambient noise (see gure 1). In the range of 125 Hz to 8000 Hz every level of octave band the chamber noise was below the levels in 1 3 established in table 4 from the ISO 8253-1 standard [12], except for 250 Hz that had 30.8 dB, the maximum level. The inuence from ambient noise was not considered in the overall uncertainty calculation. 2.8. Experimental uncertainty (type A) The standard uncertainty obtained through experimental tests uA is a means to quantify the dispersion of repetitive measurements. The parameter uA corresponds to the standard deviation of the measured values under repeatability conditions. The uA values can be seen in table 1 and they were calculated for each frequency generated by the audiometer, in the 125 Hz to 8000 Hz range. The experimental standard uncertainty obtained was between 0.033 dB and 0.145 dB. The uncertainty sources that inuence experimental results are related mainly to the operator of the calibrator system. Human inuence and the procedures adopted always cause measurement variations, mainly related to the earphone placement on the acoustic coupler. Also, there are random features of the audiometer that contribute to the dispersion of the experimental results.

The calculations were performed directly in decibels. The values of uc are presented in table 2. LE and RE represent the left and right earphones, respectively.
n 1/2

uc =
i =1

u2 i


Three measurements were taken for each audiometer frequency. Thus, the number of degrees of freedom (v) is 2. The HL chosen was 70 dB. The global value results for this study were obtained starting with the maximum value of the expanded uncertainty (U95% = 0.79 dB), which can be seen in the penultimate column of table 2. In fact, the value to be stated as being the audiometer calibration uncertainty is 0.8 dB relating to the SPL or HL from the audiometer (HL) measured with this calibration systemof Larson Davis Companyinstalled at the Industrial Noise Laboratory (LARI), Florian opolis, Brazil. However, the measurement resolution is only 0.1 dB, and it is therefore appropriate to round the value calculated in table 2 to a number with only one decimal place. The value U95% = 0.8 dB is an estimate of the range within which the measurement values are reliable, with a 95% probability. In other words, the SPL and HL, which are given in the calibration certicates (or reports) issued by the laboratory (LARI), have an associated range of uncertainty, called measurement uncertainty, of 0.8 dB.

4. Discussion and conclusions

The standard IEC 60645-1 (2001 edition) [4] establishes the Umax for SPL at 125 Hz to 4 kHz as 0.7 dB and over 4 kHz as 1.2 dB. Values of Umax calculated in table 2 exceeded the maximum allowed in the IEC standard in the frequencies below 4 kHz. Thus, it is important to decrease the uncertainty inherent in the calibration process. By increasing the number of measurements it is possible to decrease the uncertainty, but the process will become expensive (see also Ruiz et al [13]). In order to get accreditation from INMETRO it will be necessary to improve the calibration process such that it allows the expanded uncertainty to be equal to or lower than 0.7 dB.

3. Results
The uncertainty values obtained theoretically and those obtained experimentally have been grouped together in table 1. This table has a format similar to that given in the document Expression of the Uncertainty of Measurement in Calibration [1]. The square root of the sum of the n standard uncertainty values u squared, produces the combined uncertainty uc (see equation (1)) [2].

Table 2. Final part of uncertainty budget. The maximum value of expanded uncertainty (U95% ) is used to estimate the overall uncertainty. An interacoustics audiometer model AC 40 (LARI) was used. Combined standard uncertainty (uc ) (dB) LE 0.370 0.370 0.370 0.370 0.370 0.370 0.370 0.369 0.369 0.396 0.373 RE 0.369 0.375 0.370 0.370 0.369 0.370 0.369 0.370 0.369 0.373 0.375 Effective degrees of freedom (ef ) LE 379 379 379 379 378 379 379 378 378 91 355 RE 378 334 379 379 378 379 378 379 378 355 334 Multiplying factor (k95% ) LE 1.966 1.966 1.966 1.966 1.966 1.966 1.966 1.966 1.966 1.986 1.967 RE 1.966 1.967 1.966 1.966 1.966 1.966 1.966 1.966 1.966 1.967 1.967 Expanded uncertainty (U95% ) (dB) LE 0.73 0.73 0.73 0.73 0.72 0.73 0.73 0.72 0.72 0.79 0.73 RE 0.72 0.74 0.73 0.73 0.72 0.73 0.72 0.73 0.72 0.73 0.74

Frequency/ Hz 125 250 500 750 1000 1500 2000 3000 4000 6000 8000
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Table 3. Comparison results between LAETAINMETRO and LARIUFSC. Deviations from nominal values of HLs and differences between measurements of the SPL from the laboratories (average of three measurements in dB). An AD25 audiometer was used in this comparison. The temperature range during audiometer comparison was 23.0 C 1.0 C. Frequency/Hz 250 Hearing level selected/ dB HL 110 90 70 50 30 LAETA deviation/ dB 0.30 0.45 0.85 0.90 1.05 LARI deviation/ dB 0.30 0.40 0.90 0.90 1.00 Difference/ dB 0.00 0.05 0.05 0.00 0.05 LAETA deviation/ dB 0.48 0.73 1.30 1.35 1.45 1000 LARI deviation/ dB 0.63 0.77 1.30 1.30 1.47 Difference/ dB 0.15 0.04 0.00 0.05 0.02 LAETA deviation/ dB 0.55 0.37 0.15 0.20 0.40 6000 LARI deviation/ dB 0.17 0.70 0.07 0.10 0.10 Difference/ dB 0.72 0.33 0.22 0.30 0.30

In this way the laboratory will comply with the standard IEC 60645-1 [4]. Some of the uncertainty sources were discarded in this study. For example, the uncertainty from the weight (loading mass), which is placed on the earphone during the calibration process. Even so, the uncertainty value found can be considered excessive. In some other studies on measurement uncertainty values of U95% were considered excessively large. These are values considered larger than the real uncertainty of the process under study [14]. One of the factors that may lead to excessively large values in the calculation of audiometer calibration uncertainty is the fact that it is not possible to separate, totally, the experimental uncertainty from the other sources of uncertainty. This results in the calculation giving redundant values which are summed, increasing the global uncertainty value of U95% . To avoid redundancy in the uncertainty budget the resolution of the sound level meter was discarded, because uncertainty due to resolution was previously computed through the uncertainty from the calibration certicate of the sound level meter (see table 1). All measurement has an associated uncertainty, and the calibration laboratories that wish to comply with the laboratory competence standard ISO 17025 [15] must state the measurement uncertainty(ies) in their calibration certicates. Some of the sources of uncertainty that could be included in future audiometer calibration studies are: the characteristics of 1 octave band lters for SLM, uncertainty associated with 3 the acoustic coupler, and studies with other audiometer models and/or manufacturers. In relation to the SLM lters, the audiometric frequencies do not coincide with frequencies of the 1 octave lter. Thus, it 3 is important to observe the response curves in the frequency of the SLM lters so that any eventual attenuation caused by the determined lter is evaluated. Starting with this type of study, the contribution of the lters as another source of calibration uncertainty can be considered in the future. Comparison tests for audiometer calibration were carried out in June 2001 between LAETA/INMETRO (primary laboratoryRio de Janeiro, Brazil) and LARI (secondary laboratory). The differences between the average results (deviations) were within the range 0.72 dB to +0.33 dB, and the values are given in table 3. This shows that the uncertainty calculation is in accordance with the experimental reality. 6

The fellowship provided by CAPES-Brazil is gratefully acknowledged. The authors would like to thank Walter E Hoffmann, Nelson Melo do E Santo and Zemar Martins Delippo Soares, members of LAETA/INMETRO for their assistance.

[1] 2001 INMETROInstituto Nacional de Metrologia, o e Qualidade Industrial, Normaliza ca, servicos/calibDiavi.asp#LAETA [2] International Organization for Standardization 1993 Guide to Expression of Uncertainty in Measurement 1st edn Corrected and reprinted in 1995, Geneva, Switzerland [3] European Co-operation for Accreditation 1999 EA-4/02 Expression of the Uncertainty of Measurement in Calibration p 79 [4] UMEUlusal Metroloji Instit us u information/ cal facilities text.htm, August, 2001 [5] International Electrotechnical Commission 2001 IEC 60645-1 ElectroacousticsAudiological EquipmentPart 1: Pure-Tone Audiometers June [6] Br uel and Kjr 1977 Condenser Microphones and Microphone Preampliers, Theory and Application Handbook May 1977, pp 7391. World headquarters: DK-2850 Nrum, Denmark, [7] International Electrotechnical Commission 1999 IEC/CD 61094-5 Measurement MicrophonesPart 5Methods for Pressure Calibration of Working Standard Microphones by Comparison Draft, p 8 [8] Br uel and Kjr 1985 Product Data, Microphone PreampliersTypes 2633, 2639, 2645, 2660. World headquarters: DK-2850 Nrum, Denmark, [9] Larson Davis Incorporated 1999 Certicate of Calibration and Conformance, Number 1999-18393. Sound Level Meter Model: 824 Serial Number: A0334 Log Linearity, Differential Linearity and Range Data Address: 1681 West 820 North, Provo, UT 84601-1341 [10] Larson Davis Incorporated 1999 Audiometer Calibration System, User Manual IAUDIT.01 Rev. A. Address: 1681 West 820 North, Provo, UT 84601-1341, [11] International Electrotechnical Commission 1998 IEC 60318-3 ElectroacousticsSimulators of Human Head and EarPart 3: Acoustic Coupler for the Calibration of Supra-aural Earphones used in Audiometry 1st edn
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Uncertainty in audiometer calibration

[12] International Organization for Standardization 1989 ISO 8253-1AcousticsAudiometric Test Methods. Part 1: Basic Pure Tone Air and Bone Conduction Threshold Audiometry [13] Ruiz M, Feuereisen B, Mach on D and Recuero M 2002 A Model of Uncertainty Calculation for the Calibration of Audiometers (Sevilla, Spain: Forum Acusticum)

[14] Wloka M 2000 Managing director of DAR (Germany Accreditation Council). BAM Bundesanstalt f ur Materialforschung und -pr ufung, Berlin Public Communication, Metrologia-2000International Congress of Metrology Brazil [15] International Organization for Standardization 1999 ISO/IEC 17025General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories

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